Journeys of the Mind
The Scam Unfolds
Brandt sat at a table lavish in its settings. Food steamed, sending rich aromas into the air. Even as depressed as he had been over his lack of memory, Brandt looked at the banquet with anticipation. He felt as though he had not eaten forever. There was something puzzling him, though. “Why?” he asked Erik Kormand.
Kormand smiled, his brown eyes friendly. “A hero such as yourself should be honored,” was the response.
“Hero?” Brandt asked, puzzled. He didn’t feel like a hero. Indeed, he felt far from it. Again he tried to search his memory and found nothing. “What did I do? Other than be the only survivor of a massacre? It would seem that I got my butt kicked royally.” Kormand looked at him curiously and Brandt wondered where that phrase had come from.
“We found out a little more about you. Someone from your settlement said something to one of my lieutenants before he died.”
“You killed a dozen of
the Freeosh invaders before they could subdue you.”
Kormand smiled. “Anyone
capable of that deserves a place in my organization.”
“Why didn’t they kill
me?” Brandt asked. “And
“Maybe they thought they had. You were in pretty bad shape when you were brought here. My sister did a wonderful job of patching you up.” He took a drink of his wine, gazing at Brandt over the rim of the goblet. “The Freeosh are like vermin, swarming in plagues. They deserve to be exterminated. They have killed women and children, burned crops and destroyed homes. Even under a flag of truce. We will not let them defeat us. We will meet them and vanquish them. That is what my organization is all about—the protection of human colonists.” He took another drink and his eyes, which had held fiery indignation only a moment before, now held sadness. “Unfortunately, we were not as alert as we should have been, or your family would still be alive. I am truly sorry about that, Brandt.”
“Do they always do that? Kill women and children?” Brandt asked, appalled.
savagely, after raping many of them.”
Brandt was horrified,
thinking of the woman whose image had appeared briefly in his mind,
thinking of her brutalized before her murder.
He felt anger inside at anyone who would do something like that.
Kormand watched the play
of emotions on Rogers’ face and was pleased.
This might be easier than he had thought it would be.
“Will you help me protect our people?”
“Yes, I’ll help
wherever I can. Those kinds of acts are senseless and barbaric,” Brandt
said with conviction.
exclaimed, clapping Brandt on the shoulder.
“Good. I knew I
could count on you.” He
saw sadness pass over Rogers’ face and sobered quickly.
“We’ll find the killers.
I promise you that and you will help us render judgment.”
Brandt looked thoughtful for a moment and then nodded.
The next day, his bones fully healed, his aches subsiding, Brandt was shown the splendors of the Kormand compound—the weight room, the recreation room. Kormand even engaged him in a friendly martial arts bout. To his surprise, Brandt held his own, except in the contest with swords.
“You have a gift, my
friend,” Kormand declared. “You
will make a fine addition to the organization.”
Brandt smiled, but said nothing. He enjoyed the bout, he enjoyed the feeling of being a part of something, and not alone as he felt in his own head, but still there was something that slightly bothered him. And he couldn’t figure out what it was. Not being able to figure it out, Brandt just shrugged it off.
“Would you care to learn
the use of the blades?” Kormand asked.
“Yes, I would like that very much,” Brandt replied, pleased. He was also pleased at the other skills that seemed to be a part of him. Perhaps in the future other things would manifest themselves, most particularly, memories.
After dinner that night, one that was not quite so lavish as the previous evening, but nonetheless a feast to his eyes, Brandt found himself alone in his apartment. He also found himself alone with his thoughts. He wondered about the background he had been told was his. He tried, as he had before, to elicit something more, and could not. With a sigh, he rose from his bed and wandered the room. Like most of Kormand’s compound, his room was fairly spacious and elegant, although not lavish. It made him feel slightly uncomfortable, as though this was something he was unused to. But then, if what they had told him was accurate, then it was. He had been a settler, a husband and father in an outpost away from comfort and luxury.
So what am I doing here? he wondered. Just because he had defended himself and his family and people? And why had he been the only survivor? Why had everyone else been killed and he left alive? Maybe it was the way Erik had said. Maybe….
Shaking his head, Brandt looked at a shelf of books and perused their titles. Having nothing better to do, he randomly pulled one out. “Humankind’s Ultimate Destiny” he read out loud. He walked to the sofa and sat down, opening the book to its title page. Erik Kormand was listed as the author, Brandt noted in surprise. He began reading and before he knew it, had finished the first chapter. Like his quarters, the book made him somewhat uneasy. He couldn’t disagree with the philosophy that humans were special and unique and capable of greatness, but the fact that other cultures were innately inferior made him pause. Why?
Brandt yawned and realized just how tired he was. Putting the book aside, he dimmed the lights and then lay back down in his bed. Sleep came quickly.
The silence lasted for a minute and then the admiral took a deep breath and said in a loud voice, “Why wasn’t I informed about this?”
“Now don’t get upset,
Admiral,” Dr. Goodfellow soothed.
“Up until now, it’s just been a pet project of mine.
Something I’ve been working out with Crichton in my spare time.
Certainly nothing that was commissioned by the Galactic Council
or the Defense Directorate.”
The admiral paused to take charge of his emotions. This bombshell of Goodfellow’s was just another in a series of surprises and incidents that he had had absolutely no command over and he didn’t like not having at least a little bit of control over a situation.
“How close to completion are you?” Hawk asked, his voice hopeful, even though he knew first hand about some of Dr. Goodfellow’s projects. The old man’s laboratory was littered with the vestiges of first one project and then another.
“Oh, I’ve successfully
camouflaged, by distortion, small objects, Hawk.
But I haven’t been able to try it out on a large craft, like a
starfighter,” Goodfellow said, beginning to warm to his topic.
“You see, I had to polarize the incremental halzon molecules so
that when the detrite reaches a certain temperature, it electrifies and
creates detrite solute hazing which in effect creates a mirror-like
surface. That surface
“Doctor,” Asimov said, cutting the scientist off. He was fully aware how long such an explanation could take and in the end, he would still not understand but a few words of it. Just so the end effect was successful; that was all that mattered right now. “I am sure that this is fascinating, but we don’t have time for the explanation. Can you make something to camouflage a starfighter?”
“Theoretically yes, Admiral, I think all the materials are on board, but I will have to have time to work on it.”
“How much time?”
“Well, I do have the actual working model, so with help, and the materials, and….” He looked up and saw the admiral scowling at him. “There is no need to get irritable, Admiral. I believe I might be able to have something put together in a day or two,” Goodfellow said.
“You will have all the help you need. Immediately.” The admiral rubbed his chin. “Now exactly what do you need in the way of materials?”
Goodfellow began counting things off on his fingers. “Hmm, let me see. There is detrite, I think I have enough of that. And micro-delisium rods, and….”
“I tell you what, Doctor,” the admiral interrupted. “You make a list and Wilma and I will make sure you get it within the hour if not sooner. And if Dr. Theopolis doesn’t need him, take Crichton to help you.”
“Very good, very good. We will get on it right away,” Goodfellow said, a happy smile on his face. “Now whose starfighter will we install this on?”
“Mine!” two voices
said at once. Wilma and Hawk looked at each other.
“I think that Hawk would
be better suited for this kind of a mission,” Asimov said, looking
apologetically at Wilma.
“Admiral,” Wilma began, her body tense, her eyes holding a determined look.
“No, Wilma,” the
admiral began. “Hawk has the most maneuverable craft. He is at home in mountains and caves, and if there are
non-humans hiding there, he will be the most likely to make positive
Wilma only gazed at him
for a moment and then nodded. “I understand,” she said, her voice
soft in disappointment.
Asimov was relieved when
she didn’t continue the argument.
“And there is something else to consider,” Hawk began. Everyone looked at him expectantly. “That is the fact that Buck may have been captured and I would have to infiltrate the place where he is being held.”
“Did you pick that up from the communications, too?
I was wondering.”
Nodding, Hawk continued, “When I returned from Cronis, I read the reports of all messages that had been monitored on Mendalis. Up until two days ago, Erik Kormand’s coded messages seemed somewhat frantic in nature, demanding action. Then they almost completely stopped, except for one a few hours ago that seemed rather jovial in nature. There were no demands for finding Buck, nothing berating subordinates at all.”
“I was hoping that Kormand had simply given up,” the admiral suggested hopefully. “I haven’t paid as much attention to these communiqués as I should have.”
“Admiral, you were busy with those petitions to the Galactic Council. You can’t do everything and obviously, we can’t anticipate everything,” Dr. Theopolis said.
Wilma felt a great weight settling in her chest. “Kormand would not give up, although he might have decided to do his search more quietly.”
“There is that possibility, but we can’t rule out the fact that Buck may have been captured. That is another reason that this camouflaging device must be finished as quickly as possible,” Hawk declared.
“Yes, yes, you are right,” Dr. Goodfellow said. “I will go back to the lab and get working on it right away.”
Wilma simply turned away and gazed out of the star-laden port, trying to control her feelings of despair. If Buck had been captured, if he was in Erik Kormand’s hands, then the fault was hers. By not killing Erik Kormand, she had allowed him to seek his revenge against Buck.
The next day, Brandt again
spent most of his time with Erik Kormand, or his aide-de-camp, Stephen
Drishel. There was a long
session in which he sparred with Kormand using short swords.
While he never matched the other’s ability, Brandt enjoyed the
challenge of learning this new sport, and prided himself that by
session’s end, he was holding his own.
Before dinner, they spent time by a large swimming pool, again one that struck Brandt with its opulence.
“Again, I am very
impressed with your quickness of understanding,” Kormand said to him
as he sipped on his chilled drink.
“I know you will be a great asset to me.”
Brandt saw Sreena coming through a door behind Kormand, and he smiled. He had missed the doctor and had hoped he would see her again. Kormand was still speaking, though and he quickly returned his full attention to the Human Rights leader, knowing how his benefactor demanded the full attention of his subordinates.
“Thank you. I am flattered,” he said, nodding his head slightly to acknowledge the doctor’s arrival.
“This cause demands only the best and I believe you fit in that category.” Kormand turned to Sreena. “Ah, there you are, my dear sister. Join us. Relax and have a drink. You have been entirely too busy lately and keeping yourself much too cloistered.”
Sreena smiled and took a seat in a lounge chair between the two men. “You are a very demanding boss, Erik,” she said with a laugh, but Brandt felt some strain there on her part and wondered. She turned to him. “I see Erik has been keeping you very busy as well. How are you feeling, Brandt?”
“Good,” he said.
“Any return of
memory?” she asked, studying him closely.
“No….” he began.
“In time,” Kormand
said quickly, seeing the look of frustration crossing his ‘protégé’s’
features. “In time.”
“Yes, no doubt,” Brandt murmured.
Kormand suddenly looked startled, as though something had occurred to him, and then he snapped his fingers and grinned. “Why don’t we recreate the attack on your home and see if that jogs your memory,” he cried out excitedly.
Hesitant, Brandt asked,
“How would you do that?”
“We simply find an abandoned village, use a few tame Freeosh and perhaps that might help you remember your past.”
“Do you think this will help?”
“Of course it would,”
Kormand answered quickly and then gazed at his sister.
“It would, right, Sreena?”
“Perhaps,” Sreena said, hesitantly.
Brandt thought he saw a
look pass between them before she continued, but he couldn’t be sure.
“Amnesia is very tricky, Erik, but I daresay it couldn’t hurt,” Sreena added. “Before you try something like that, though, I would like to examine you, Brandt, to make sure everything has healed right.” A servant handed her a drink. “I really think you have done more than you should have so soon.”
Brandt, through your diligent care, is in perfect shape.”
“Except I can’t remember anything,” Brandt interjected.
Kormand smiled and repeated. “That will come, Brandt. Now let’s do something totally pleasant. How about some 10 and 11?”